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Live webchat with Rachel Reeves MP, Labour's shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Monday 26 March, 12.30 pm

(88 Posts)
JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Sun 25-Mar-12 20:52:09

Labour's shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rachel Reeves MP, is joining us for a webchat tomorrow, Monday 26th March, 12.30-1.30pm (just before she nips of to the Common's chamber to close the budget debate).

Rachel was elected to Parliament at the last general election, having previously worked as an economist for the Bank of England, the British Embassy in Washington and at Halifax Bank of Scotland and is regarded as one of Ed Miliband's high-flyers and a potential future leader of the labour party.

Rachel's keen to answer any of your questions: from tax credits to child benefit, personal allowances to pension age (and of course anything a bit more exciting in between).

As ever, if you can't join us live - do post a question in advance.

RachelReevesMP Mon 26-Mar-12 13:10:24


Hello Rachel

This cash-for-kitchen-suppers business is all very depressing, as much for its utter predictability as anything else.

While there is something peculiarly Tory about the gall of Maude et al's defence of the PM, it's fair to say that both Labour and the Conservatives have a ghastly track record in this area.

Both parties have effectively ignored the Phillips Inquiry and the Committee on Standards in Public Life, both of which recommended that there be a cap on donations (by unions as well as by individuals), and greater state funding of political parties.

It seems ludicrously naive to believe that any large donation made to a political party is not made in the hope of benefit to the donor. So why has Labour not pushed for these recommendations to be adopted? Is it simply because to do so would open the whole unions/individual dues can of worms, or is there a less self-serving rationale?

Agree the stuff about cash for kitchen suppers is rather unsavoury, there’s going to be a statement about it in parliament at 3.30pm today and hopefully the government will agree to put all the information about what dinners were had and what policies were influenced out for the public to see.
I think the government have to be transparent about this.
But you’re right that it’s not just about one party or one scandal, there’s been far too many. I think there is a difference between donations from big businesses and individual union members wanting to pay into the political fund of their Trade Union to support the Labour party. And so don’t think you can treat those individual decisions by union members (in terms of a cap) in the same way you treat donations from wealthy individuals or business, but it is these differences that are making agreement hard. Of course the alternative to business/ union/ membership donations is state funding. But I just don’t see how we (politicians) can ask hard-pressed voters to stump up the cash for running political parties at a time when we’re asking them to suffer austerity. What do you think? I’d be interested in your views.

Titchyboomboom Mon 26-Mar-12 13:11:05

Just a comment, no answer needed - I had a tough time at school as I was quite bright and was picked on and suffering massively at the middle school I went to. Labour offered me a government assisted place at a local Girls School and my life turned around! The Conservative government stopped these grants when they came into power, but without this I don't know where my life would have gone. The school was my lifeline, my inspiration and still my source of confidence and hope that I can draw on... so thank you Labour for the opportunity you gave me smile

RachelReevesMP Mon 26-Mar-12 13:11:57

I couldn't agree more. I see the same thing up in my constituency in Leeds - cut backs in funding for children's centres which is making it harder for mums (and dads) to go back to work. I think that Sure Start / Children's Centres were one of the best things that the last labour government did. I hope that child care will be near the top of Labour's next manifesto - watch this space!


Hi! I am a working mum and run a childminding business from home while looking after my young daughter. We are having our local children's centre services dramatically reduced as a result of budget cuts, and I wondered whether you think money will be put back into this service eventually - my concern is that cuts to these lifeline services will adversely affect so many children at such a vulnerable time in their lives.

Llareggub Mon 26-Mar-12 13:12:03

Hi Rachel, I think you are really quite fearsome, and wish you the very best for the future. I hope you go for the top job one day.

Fabi76 Mon 26-Mar-12 13:14:26

Hello Rachel, I do not have a question but just wanted to say that I think you are doing a very good job. Keep it up!

RachelReevesMP Mon 26-Mar-12 13:17:46

Yes! I had a postcard at university that said:

"I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat."


Also sneaking in another question - would you describe yourself as a feminist?

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Mon 26-Mar-12 13:17:53

Great ! You should put child care/ early years education at the top (or very near !) of your manifesto and plans.

It is crucial for everyone and a real WIN/WIN area as well as an election winner - especially with mothers !

LilyBolero Mon 26-Mar-12 13:19:07

Rachel, you've already answered a question, so am being quite cheeky asking another, but something that I feel SO upset and angry about is the lack of democracy in this country atm.

The last election was decided by Nick Clegg, he had the power to choose the next PM. LibDems campaigned on a ticket of slower, shallower cuts, as did Labour, this course received more votes than the savage George Osborne route, and yet this is the course we are taking, because of Nick Clegg's choices. NHS, tuition fees, Child Benefit, VAT - these were all guarantees before the election, now all promises are out of the window.

What can be done when the voter has no say? Should there not be some element of having to stick to manifestos? I'm fed up of hearing 'this is a coalition government' - eg on the LibDems tuition fees fiasco - they say 'well we didn't win the election, so we can't keep our pledge' - their pledge was to VOTE AGAINST any rise in tuition fees - which is only applicable in the event of them not winning the election!!! Unless they were going to propose a rise, if they did win.....

As a voter, it is so important that government policy bears SOME resemblance to manifesto commitments. And I strongly believe that a coalition government should be illegal, unless it has representatives (in elected proportions) of all the 3 major parties. Why should the party that came 3rd be in Government? That isn't democracy!!!

RachelReevesMP Mon 26-Mar-12 13:19:42


Thanks for your answer on fuel - could you consider arguing for VAT to be applied to fuel BEFORE the duty - would make a real difference! We can barely afford to fill our car up, £80 last time we did.

All I can promise is that if Labour were in today we'd cut VAT and would take 3p of a litre of fuel and put £450 in the pockets of an ordinary family which would help ease the overall pressure on family finances.

Northernlurker Mon 26-Mar-12 13:19:57

I had that postcard too grin Good answer.

RachelReevesMP Mon 26-Mar-12 13:21:06

There was an article in the independent that says I always wear purple! I haven't failed to disappoint today. I'll be in a purple scarf and purple jacket in the commons later!


Really trivial question (I promise to ask a cleverer one too), but why do so many politicians where their party's colours? Ie Danny Alexander or Nick Clegg in awful gold ties and (hate to say it) Rachel and other Labour women in red jackets. Its' not very subtle and when you have younger, more stylish politicians, surely their own taste should be allowed to break through?

<off to mug up on quantitative easing for a proper question>

RachelReevesMP Mon 26-Mar-12 13:23:24

Glad you agree! And, genuinely, if you or others mumsnetters want to feed in policy ideas on what would work to help parents with childcare, then you should feed them in as best policies come from those people who are most affected by them.


Great ! You should put child care/ early years education at the top (or very near !) of your manifesto and plans.

It is crucial for everyone and a real WIN/WIN area as well as an election winner - especially with mothers !

RachelReevesMP Mon 26-Mar-12 13:24:50

Being in government would be nice! In 2015, if I got to close the Budget debate as the Chief Secretary, rather than his shadow, that would be a fantastic achievement. Then I could put into practise, some of the answers I've given today!


<squeezing in another question and hoping that no-one notices>

Rachel, could I ask about your personal ambition within politics; clearly most MPs aim to make a positive difference along the lines of implementing their personal philosophy, but would you also fancy the top job one day, or is that something that you're never allowed to admit to until you're actually there?

LindsayWagner Mon 26-Mar-12 13:25:19

Interesting - Number 10 have just published the list of Leader's Group donors who got a closer look at Samantha's Corian splashback.

I think - thanks for asking - that the public would be more tolerant of increased state funding of political parties than you might think, if the rationale was expressed as being a direct attempt to reduce semi-corrupt practice. Problem is that neither party would prob be willing to express it that strongly, for obvious reasons.

Re unions: I think you're right that there's no need for a cap - as long as members make an explicit and voluntary decision to contribute. If that were the case, the union would simply be collecting many small individual donations, all of which would fall way under the cap. But where contribution is mandatory ...

I heart you too, by the way. Good luck.

RachelReevesMP Mon 26-Mar-12 13:25:47


Ruth Kelly seemed to do more for childcare and extended hours at school than any other minister, and there was a great deal of progress on the family friendly front during her tenure as Secretary of State for Education.

1. Do you think we are going backwards now?
2. If we are, how would Labour move this on again if they got into power, given the constrained public purse?
3. Personally, do you think there is a link between national prosperity and women participating in paid work (I ask because so many Bank of England reports have indicated that there is, so it would seem that increasing affordable childcare could be one of the golden bullets to help the recovery).

1. Yes!!
2. I think the government are wrong to cut children's centres and the government's move to cut the childcare element of the working tax credit was really a step in the wrong direction, because as you point out in 3, it can also be really bad news for the economy.

As a friend of mine said to me at the weekend - it's completlely ridiculous that after the state invested so much in her education she now can't use her skills while her two children are young and needing childcare. It's good for the economy and good for families if childcare needs are met.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Mon 26-Mar-12 13:26:06

Thank you ! That's an interesting invitation - I might write to you. Meanwhile as you and I both mentioned I think looking to the Scandinavian countries approach to child care and early years education is a great place to start !

RachelReevesMP Mon 26-Mar-12 13:26:33

My husband bought be an iPad for Xmas at no cost to taxpayers!


Also what do you make of the discussion this evening about the recommendation that all MP's be issued with a free ipad at a cost of thousands of pounds to the taxpayer?

Given that the MP's salary is much higher than the average isn't it slightly gross that the taxpayer is expected to fund an ipad for each and every MP?

maresedotes Mon 26-Mar-12 13:27:39

Hello Rachel

How on earth did you cope with David Starkey on QT recently?!

BoffinMum Mon 26-Mar-12 13:27:46

I research stuff like this all day long with my academic hat on, and after 20 years of considering the question, here's my policy input.

We can never have true equality, or prosperity, until childcare is practically free.

My reasoning? Charging people for childcare is about as useful as charging them school pence in the 19th century for attending school, and then wondering why the population remains illiterate and low-skilled. By charging people for the privilege of going to work, we keen talented women down and class divisions firmly entrenched.

So make it happen, as they say. wink

BoffinMum Mon 26-Mar-12 13:28:36


RachelReevesMP Mon 26-Mar-12 13:30:07


My DH and I tried to concieve for many years before I finally became pregnant with our first baby, we are delighted, of course.

Unfortunately the delay in conception has meant that our baby is coming into being at a time when the government of the day seems to think it appropriate that young families pay for the collapse of the private financial sector. The loss of:

The Health in Pregnancy Grant
Government payments into a Child Trust Fund
Reductions in Child (Baby?) Tax Credits and restrictions in those qualifying for them
The end of universal Child Benefit

No doubt there are other things I haven't factored in (funding for Sure Start centres?), reduction in Childcare element of WTC, changes that affect parents who rely on housing benefit etc.

As new parents begin families under this child-hostile government, what would Labour do to improve the lives of our children under a future Labour government?

Congratulations Spiritedwolf - you're right there was a lot more support with Labour, which I believe made it a little bit easier for parents trying to juggle work and family life. I think it's a shame we've gone back, I'm proud of the things we did in government and as I said earlier I think help for childcare has to be central to Labour's manifesto in 2015

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Mon 26-Mar-12 13:31:21

Great post, BoffinMum - good quality and free is what you/we want ! But well resourced enough to pay a respectful, living wage, to those that provide the care and education to the children too !

RachelReevesMP Mon 26-Mar-12 13:33:22


Also, on the child benefit, as well as the dual/single income anomaly, there is still the basic unfairness that HRT payers with children are being hit for thousands of pounds a year, whilst HRT payers without children are not hit at all.

Totally agree, families with children are being much harder hit than any other group.

BoffinMum Mon 26-Mar-12 13:35:05

Just spend da money, people!

iseenodust Mon 26-Mar-12 13:36:05

What do you think of the fact it seems that the majority of the new Police Commissioners will be ex-MPs or aspirant politicians eg Brian Paddick?

<2nd question fair because you answered someone else's on regional pay grin>

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